“Don’t ever do this.” “You should never do that.” We’ve all heard certain decorating rules regarding colors, furniture, finishes and accessories. But how many of these are actually true, and how many may have made sense in the past but are no longer applicable? We asked a few experts to weigh in and separate fact from fiction.

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decorating rules bright colors bedroom

Use a calm, relaxing color palette in the bedroom. Image: Studio M Interiors

Should you avoid bright colors in the bedroom?

This rule is true, according to Kimberly Schmunk, an interior designer at Nashville-based luxury custom home developer Focus Builders. “I tend to lean toward a more soothing color palette in the bedroom, since this is the room you will be winding down in.” If you want to incorporate bold colors, she recommends including it in artwork, throw pillows or other accessories. You can paint your bedroom bright red, but don’t be surprised if you struggle to fall asleep at night.

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decorating rules stainless steel

An entirely stainless steel kitchen doesn’t have to be intimidating. Image: Griffin Enright Architects

Is stainless steel hard to clean?

Some people warn homeowners against using stainless steel because it shows fingerprints and is harder to clean. However, Schmunk says that this shouldn’t be a problem if you use cleaning products formulated for stainless steel (she recommends Steel Meister Stainless Steel Cleaner). Some stainless steel manufacturers make it even easier; they recommend using warm, soapy water on a damp cloth, followed by a final rinse with clean water. (Note: steel wool should never be used on any type of stainless steel.)

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decorating rules builder beige

Builder beige doesn’t have to be boring. Image: Michael Abrams Interiors

Should you use builder beige when selling your house?

“I don’t think you can go wrong with builder beige, as it is very neutral and will not scare off buyers,” says Mark Ferguson, a real estate agent, real estate investor, author and the creator of Invest Four More. However, he says that this is not the only color you can use. “Light grays can look very good and are in fashion right now — we even try some colors with hints of blue or green.” However, Ferguson warns against using colors that are too dark or too bright.

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decorating rules small furniture

This acrylic pedestal tub is the perfect size for this small bathroom. Image: Renewal Design Build

Should you use small furniture in small rooms?

The scale and proportion of your furniture can make or break the design, warns Schmunk. “I suggest including smaller pieces in a small space; otherwise, it may feel like your selection was an afterthought.”

However, Texas-based designer Pablo Solomon says that using fewer pieces of furniture that have multiple functions are better than using a lot of small pieces. When you have a small room, Solomon offers these three tips:

  • Maintain the longest lines of sight you can to windows and to other rooms
  • Do not block windows
  • Use see-through furniture (acrylic, glass) near windows of contemporary homes
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decorating rules mixed metals

This kitchen demonstrates tastefully mixed metals. Image: Sophie Burke Design

Is it okay to mix and match metals?

One of the most repeated decorating rules is to avoid mixing metals. However, Schmunk says that it’s perfectly fine to mix metals, as long as you limit the number of metals to about two. Solomon agrees, though with a caveat: “Any décor details must work together in a given setting. Mixing metals may work in one setting and be an eyesore in another.”

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decorating rules mirror

This bathroom is light and airy thanks to large mirrors. Mark Williams Design Associates

Do mirrors make rooms look bigger?

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Mirrors reflect light, making a room look larger and brighter. Need proof? Take a look at the bathroom above: The mirror-on-mirror effect, combined with the open space under the sink, create the illusion of a much larger space.

Whatever you dream about for your new design, chances are there’s a way to make it happen. Solomon says that he is not a firm believer in decorating rules. “My only rule is to have a finished space that is balanced, proportionate, functional, eye-pleasing and tells the story that you want to tell.” Which decorating rules have you followed or broken in creating your dream home?